Peter Weir MLA: Issues of identity and citizenship are not to be conflated

Letter to the editor
Letter to the editor
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I welcome the announcement that the Home Office has won its appeal against an immigration tribunal ruling which previously found that people in Northern Ireland are not automatically British.

Whilst anyone will sympathise with someone wishing to seek permanent residence for their spouse, I do not support the legal pathway Emma De Souza chose to pursue this aim.

The ruling yesterday is to be welcomed.

The alternative would have been to leave people in Northern Ireland in a fundamentally detrimental position compared to fellow citizens in other parts of the United Kingdom.

The issues of citizenship and identity should not be conflated.

Whilst identity reflects a political and cultural ethos, citizenship is legally based entitlement enshrined in legislation.

Anyone in Northern Ireland can of course choose to take up Irish citizenship but this ruling clarifies that British citizenship is the automatic default.

The principle of consent is a vital part of the progress we have made in Northern Ireland and the legal challenge taken by Mrs De Souza would have undermined that key principle.

The way in which many nationalists championed this case has raised questions about whether they are truly committed to all aspects of the Belfast Agreement and will do more than simply pay lip service to the principle of consent.

Peter Weir, DUP MLA, Strangford